Northern region basketball teams leave Las Vegas empty-handed, win one game combined at state tourney
2015 NIAA state basketball champions
Boys: Bishop Gorman (I), Clark (I-A), Agassi Prep (III), Spring Mountain (IV)
Girls: Centennial (I), Spring Valley (I-A), White Pine (III), Pahranagat Valley (IV)
LAS VEGAS — The Northern Region’s struggles at the 2015 NIAA state basketball championships weren’t limited to the Whittell boys basketball team’s semifinal exit last Friday. North schools won one game across four divisions at the state tournament, and ended the season completely shut out on the state level for the first time in 25 years.
North teams finished with a 1-14 overall record against their South counterparts in Las Vegas, with Smith Valley’s girls team — the region’s top seed in Div. IV — the only one to notch a victory. All eight state titles went to South schools — the last time the North didn’t have a state champion on either side was the 1979-80 season.
The North hosted the state championships in Reno, Nev. last season, and both regions won four titles apiece — Whittell was the only boys team to bring home a championship. Three of the North’s four defending state champs qualified for the tournament again — the Warriors in Div. IV, Lowry girls in Div. I-A and Incline girls in Div. III — but none could get a win on South turf.
The last time the state championships were in Las Vegas following the 2012-13 season, North schools won three titles. Traveling south put Northern Nevada teams at a disadvantage — in vans, school buses and charter buses, North teams traveled more than 5,300 miles one way for this year’s tournament and had an average travel time of six-and-half hours.
Playing close to home, Las Vegas schools took home six of the eight state championships. The only two non-Las Vegas teams to win titles were Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) and White Pine (Ely, Nev.)
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In the Warriors’ case, head coach Phil Bryant said they were eliminated by the most talented and athletic team they had faced all season long. On the bus ride back to Zephyr Cove, he added that a number of Whittell’s North counterparts ran into similar issues at the state tournament — but that that won’t be a problem for the Warriors in the future.
“We need more games of playing up — we’re going to go out and see if we can get games against teams with a little better athletes, a little better quickness and a little more strength,” Bryant said.
For Whittell and the rest of the Northern Region, it’s back to the drawing board after a historic state shutout on the hardwood.
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